Dudamel commemorates Brussels victims

At the opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic residency at London’s Barbican Centre tonight, Gustavo Dudamel turned to the audience and said:

‘The universal language of music sends a message of beauty, love and peace.’

la phil barbican

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  • Stan Fields: What is the one most important thing our society needs?
    Gracie Hart: That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.
    [crowd is silent]
    Gracie Hart: And world peace!
    [crowd cheers ecstatically]
    Stan Fields: Thank you, Gracie Lou.

    (Miss Congeniality, 2000)

  • This is a perfectly appropriate thing to say.

    So perhaps Dudamel is not a saint? Nor is he a brute.

    People are not all black or white. What’s wrong with accepting a dedication that was probably quite sincere and heartfelt? On behalf of his orchestra?

    A little grown-up response might be in order.

    God hep us if Lang Lang comments.

      • Well, quite. I agree with CDH entirely, until the barb directed at Lang Lang. I have no interest, given the alternatives available, to listen to, or see, Lang Lang play anything at all. I dislike his showmanship, I’m little impressed by his musicianship from the little I’ve heard. But he is a formidable technician. And, much more importantly, I’ve no reason to think he’s anything other than a decent and compassionate human being. Why this wish to cast people in two dimensions? We’re all three dimensional, not just physically, but in terms of our many qualities. One can be, simultaneously, an irritating dick as a performer, and a thoroughly decent human being when confronted by the suffering of others.

        • But that’s exactly what I meant. That if Lang Lang were to comment, he would get the usual scorn around here, where apparently he can do no right — SD is constantly posting items about him designed to sneer, and completely ignoring articles that describe his efforts in youth education and other good deeds. No mention that he was a week-long guest on Radio 3 recently, discussing ideas and philosophies.

          I have previously argued against this kind of condescension, and happily there are a few admirers who do weigh in. How good a musician or entertainer Lang Lang is will be debated for a long time, which is fair enough. But he gets stick any time he offers a kind word anywhere.

          If someone read only this blog, they would think Lang Lang and Gustavo Dudamel were both absolute frauds musically, and in the a certain much-represented-here household, apparently he is an evil dictator and brute. The contempt for the LA Phil and the many orchestras worldwide that value his contributions, and similarly with those that welcome Lang Lang, must be terribly moronic. Who knew so many of the world’s major musical forces were so gullible?

          • Indeed. I misinterpreted your words, and quite see the intended sense now. I apologise, and retract my point of disagreement. There is none. I agree with you 100%.

  • You all are very unkind to Dudamel – he speaks !
    That he speaks drivel is unfortunate but as one notes he is
    working hard on his image as a thinker..how many people knew before this latest
    revelation by Dudamel that music that most abstract of the arts sends messages ?
    Don’t dare ask how these messages are sent & delivered .Are they marked beauty
    love,and peace ? Stay tuned ………

  • Dudamel is a patriotic Venezuelan. It is the freest of countries in the world. Shame on you for saying otherwise.

  • The point here is irony. Profound irony.

    27,875 people were murdered in Venezuela last year, 110,000 in the last five years as a direct consequence of the political system he supports, distributes, profits from, glorifies at the UN Security Council and NEVER condemns.

    The lamentable tragedy of Brussels is evident to all of us – with Paris, Peshawar, Ivory Coast, Istanbul (x3), Ankara, Tunisia, countless in Iraq etc. But you can not be selective in your outrage. Dudamel should consider that, statistically, 76.3 Venezuelans were murdered yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that. And the day before that. And the day…….

    And tomorrow?

    • FCS, this is exactly the sort of attitude I was descrying. I am aware Dudamel has his critics, but even if he is all you say — and knowing whose surrogate you are, I start by considering that to be doubtful — this is not about Venezuela. Not everything bloody is. And it is possible for a person to feel real empathy for an event like Brussels. And presumably he spoke for his colleagues.

      You and the wife need to get a grip on the fact that there is a world elsewhere. Else you ar ein danger of becoming obsessives. Oops, too late the warning…

      • The point is: who is Dudamel, right-hand man of a dictator and figurehead of a fascistic organisation, to be playing the part of ambassador for love and peace?

        • Dudamel is far too busy in his work to be any politician’s right-hand man. If he does not bite the hand that feeds a cause dear to his heart, he may be at odds with many politically, but he is not in there orchestrating political decisions.

          Who he is to speak is the leader of an orchestra, and on its behalf he offered a kind comment on the evening of an unspeakable tragedy. He would have been rather subject to criticism to say nothing. But he can;t win around here, where a hostility to him has been fomented for years, ably assisted by another of Venezuela’s musical exports.

      • Dear CDH (what are you, an airport?),

        I am no surrogate. I give my full name, as I always do, because I am more than happy to own my opinions. My independent critical faculties were in order long before I met “The Wife”, as you so graciously objectify her, at 40.

        That Dudamel should feel empathy in light of the horrific events of Brussels is hardly under scrutiny. We ALL do.

        That such a public response should be forthcoming on behalf of all gathered in the hall is perfectly decent and to be expected.

        My comment is about the messenger, not the message, and the galling extent of the irony surrounding our dove in question, Mr. Dudamel. It is about a public figure finally choosing to publicly express empathy in the face of unspeakable tragedy, having acquiesced passively for years in the face of far more frequent and numerous murders in his own land, either because of ideological sympathies or self-interest. Did he express empathy when protesting students were killed by government-armed “colectivos” in 2014 on Venezuela’s streets? Did he express outrage at their detention and torture? If he had, I would not be writing this. My comment is about moral consistency: It is not about when he DID speak, but when he didn’t.

        I illustrated above that more than twice as many people are murdered EACH DAY in Dudamel’s home nation than died tragically in Brussels yesterday. This is not a fallacy of relevance because this Dantesque scenario is an effect of the civic destruction wrought by the state-dismantling policies of the very people who send Dudamel out into the world as revolutionary emissary, along with the human billboards of Venezuela’s wonderful, but state-owned, youth orchestras. This incongruent messaging, selective outrage and dissonant value system are all worthy of scrutiny, analysis and comment. This is my point.

        “The wife”, on the other hand, has voiced consistent outrage at murder for years. “The Wife” has openly denounced the corruption, incompetence and criminality that has brought her and Dudamel’s nation to failed statehood. “The Wife” has used music to distribute the real story of Venezuela, rather than Dudamel’s sanitized, flag-waving, soundbite version of “peace, love and unity,” that conceal “murder, hatred and division”. “The Wife” is an Honorary Consul of Amnesty International not by accident, but for her consistent, long-standing use of creative dissent to correct the engineered, misleading utopia narrative sewn globally by Venezuelan musicians. “The Wife” has spoken twice in Davos to offer the real numbers, the ones that represent the quarter of a million mourning mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters who have lost loved ones during the lawless, chaotic, despotic years of Chavismo, during which Dudamel thrived. “The Wife” recorded a piece way back in 2010 entitled “Mi Venezuela Llora”, “My Venezuela Cries”. Dudamel released an album called “Fiesta!”, “Party!”, all Chavista flags and communist red. “The Wife” had the color red removed from her album, “Solatino”, even turning the EMI logo black.

        And on Friday night in Berlin, “The Wife” will again play “Ex Patria”, a work she hoped never to have to play again, a work she composed in dedication to the 19,336 victims of murder in 2011 – up to 27,875 in 2015 – a work that she recorded last year in order to tell the story of a “hidden crisis”, as described by Salil Shetty. And “The Wife” will keep pounding the Venezuelan story that Dudamel is determined to sanitize and that the press largely ignores, until civility is restored. “The Wife” mourns hidden, unreported tragedies every day in her public discourse and creative output. “The Wife” does not wait for a politically neutral, universally condemned, widely-reported act of religious insanity – carried out by the sort of anti-Semitic zealots that Chavez numbered among his friends, including the PanAm-downing Mr. Gaddafi – to call upon words of empathy. This is the point.

        And “The Wife”, unlike you CDH, puts her name to her convictions: Gabriela Montero. I am proud to pronounce it. She is no obsessive, Sir/Madam, unless you are prepared to conflate resistance to tyranny – and persistent human rights advocacy on behalf of the powerless – with a mental condition.

  • That Dudamel – and presumably his orchestra – might feel at the end of a day such as yesterday that some form of acknowledgement is appropriate is surely not to his discredit. By contrast, the snide comments made here do their authors no credit at all.

    The problem is one that has been noted many times before: we lament the deaths of those close to us (geographically and/or culturally, even if not personally), especially when they are caused by those whom we cannot begin to understand and occur in places where sudden violent multiple deaths are rare events. We scarcely register the violent deaths of those who are distant from us – geographically, culturally, and personally – even when those deaths are the consequence of action taken by those we have elected and, thereby, taken in our name. I recognise that the two may be morally quite different: one is the deliberate killing of innocents, the other the unintended consequences of – if you accept the argument – necessary actions to weaken terrorism and barbaric regimes. But the actions taken by our government are, nonetheless, taken in the knowledge that there WILL be innocent lives lost. We may have got away from that terrible term “collateral damage”, but our actions have not freed themselves of its reality. Innocent lives are lost beyond, as well as within, Europe, and our governments are agents in those deaths.

    That is not in any way to absolve the terrorists of responsibility for their crimes. What we have just seen in Brussels, and recently in Paris, embodies the worst of the inhumanity of man. It’s just to suggest that whilst we mourn those lost in Brussels, and decry the actions of the terrorists, we would do well to reflect on the chronic suffering and repeated loss of innocent lives in other parts of the world to which we have, perhaps defensibly perhaps not, contributed.

    • You are clearly intelligent. Dudamel is not, and his beauty-contestant soundbite deserves critical responses. He’s not just an airhead, though, but a dangerous distraction, as Sam McElroy correctly points out, and he does not deserve your defence.

      • Dudamel may be culpable in the stance he is taking – or perhaps one might say failing to take – in relation to Venezuelan politics. Certainly those who take a quietist approach to state-sanctioned violence for sake of protecting their own careers or the communities in which they work are open to criticism. I would agree that they are, at the very least, conflicted. I don’t know much at all about Venezuelan politics, or about Dudamel’s position, except that dissident voices aren’t tolerated, and Dudamel has said he does not wish to speak out on political matters. I’m not comfortable with that position. But I don’t think it disqualifies him from making the statement that he did last night. Surely, we are all riddled with inconsistencies and live lives of moral and ethical compromise. And whilst the musical professions are, like any other human activity which involves production and consumption, inherently political, Dudamel is surely right to point towards something in music itself (he might have allowed “languages”, plural rather than singular) which communicates affectively – and hence in ways which feel distanced from its social, economic and political contexts – and thereby brings people together.

        • what he said had no reference to politics – that many find him reprehensible
          is a given …he was referring to what his audience calls music and attributing
          qualities to it that can be viewed as quite stupid …but does satisfy the audiences
          that attend these events.It was a feel good moment for all considering the tragedy
          One could not but note the feel good message was delivered by a speaking voice
          and not by the music itself ,. so much for the music as messenger.
          One does feel his ambition overrides much of what he does and how he presents
          himself as in this latest careful show and tell .Was this bit orchestrated by his handlers ?

          • I’m not sure why you chose to make your comment a reply to mine. Your disapproval of Dudamel is clear enough, but I’m afraid that I find the precise meaning of your message here a little less clear. I don’t mean to be rude. I welcome your comments, and suspect that it may well be I that is being obtuse, rather than you being obscure.

        • Your’s is an eloquent and reasonable statement, but it misses two key points.

          1. Dudamel uses these words day in, day out, whenever he’s called on to make a public statement about anything (and often to avoid the topic of politics). They are his marketing slogan, a key part of the Dudamel brand. They are no more a commemoration of the Brussels victims (whom he didn’t mention) than a Nike executive saying “just do it” is an incisive commentary on sport. Those words are about him, not Brussels.

          2. It’s hard not to be more than a little skeptical of his music = love and peace message once you’ve read this (the account of someone who comes from the same system and city as Dudamel): https://van-us.atavist.com/all-that-matters. Well worth the time to read, if you’re interested in this topic.

          • Thank you for a civilized and interesting discussion.I remain predisposed to be more charitable to Dudamel than you are prepared to be. But I know less than you. Your position seems to me defensible, and I shall read the piece with interest.

          • About the “two key points”.
            1. Perhaps you were not there. In his very first sentence he did mention “people of Belgium” which evidently included the victims in his mind.
            2. It is often good to be skeptical, e.g. when encountering one person’s recollection of and opinion about certain events.

          • A couple of additional observations.
            The words quoted here were neither about Brussels nor “about him”. They were about giving a little bit of comfort to the people who were in the hall at that moment. If any of those present felt badly about his words, it might be interesting and possibly educational to know why.
            As for the issue of Venezuela, it is certainly legitimate to criticise GD’s position. However, even if one disagrees with a person on one issue, it does not mean that this person should be prohibited from being correct about something else.

          • M2N2K:

            1. I wasn’t there, and it’s good to know that Dudamel tailored his branding motto to the occasion. It’s still about as meaningful as “just do it.”

            2. Being skeptical is good, but it involves rather more than just dismissing the view of someone (the musician in the article) who knows a lot more about the topic than you do. It involves searching around for other sources of information that deny or confirm that view. And if you’d actually read the article, you would have seen that the musician’s views coincide precisely with the only independent academic research on the topic. So the evidence suggests you should turn your skepticism towards Dudamel. Will you do that, or is your skepticism selective?

          • 1. Haven’t seen a better alternative yet.
            2. Mine isn’t and never was, and I am confident that neither is yours. By the way I talked to several El Sistema alumni and they were mostly very positive about the program. Probably just a coincidence…

  • There is no “Bernstein of our day” – such a person does not exist – and no one, least of all GD, claims otherwise. None of the commenters criticizing the very brief statement quoted in this post has suggested a better alternative so far here. It is true that music is most abstract of arts and therefore does not by itself contains a “message”, and yet the act of public performance and communal experience of it is indeed capable of producing a shared feeling of humanity in those participants – performers as well as listeners – who are able to feel anything.

    • Never thought I’d write this- but there is hope for you yet, though I would
      not as a communal experience attribute to music a shared feeling of humanity.

    • They could use as alternative: 1 – Barbican could print along the program a note dedicating the concert to all victims and families. A dedication making clear that the thing to be noted were not anyone at that concert hall, but the victims in Brussels. 2 – Other alternative could be a host announcing this same dedication through the loud speakers. 3 – Even GD could speak in the name of the orchestra, but saying just the dedication. In fact, GD is far from been a doyen d’âge or a erudite, and he went beyond his limits.

      I have to agree with Inimigopublico. Dudamel was kind of miss congeniality trying to capitalize with a puerile sound-bites. At the end, it was just enough to remind everybody about his cowardice concerning Venezuela.

      As usual for Dudamel, I cannot see any news. Did he shook a lot his hair at the Barbican? Does Messiaen sounded revitalized than ever before in the hands of the Messiah, ah? Nevermind…

    • To milka: that is why I concluded my previous statement with a qualification.
      To rgiarola: but for whatever reason the Barbican hosts did not do 1 or 2; as for 3 – you would have preferred 1 sentence instead of 2 – fair enough but debatable. As for the performances – if you were not there, then read reviews. There aren’t any here.

      • No need to read reviews for this specific GD amusement, that I wasn’t. As Goethe said, “You don’t have to travel around the world to understand that the sky is blue everywhere.’

        Debatable is the MKT management behind GD, that always inflict hype and mystification around him. Where is now the “Messiah”? Where is the guy that would rejuvenate all orchestras around the world? Where is the new L. Bernstein? Where are many other bullshits that were considered statements about him 10 years ago? Does GD artistic achievement justified it? I don’t think so. It is funny that in the last decade GD had been the main focus of mostly all headlines concerning classical music, and few things had been said about other people of same generation or little older. Kirill Petrenko is an clear example. Even Andris Nelson, D. Harding, Nézet-Séguin, Vasily Petrenko or Ludovic Morlot weren’t really top news at that time, just to name a few ones.

        • So, you are still interested in talking about publicity statements made 10 years ago, but not in music making that is happening now. That is your choice. As for me, I am not interested in publicity statements, even fresh ones, but I am always interested in music.

          • That’s the point, considering everything we said. I’m the truly one interested in music making of the last decade, including now a days performances. You are the one here clearly defending a cult of personality, in all opinion that don’t convey to it. There many other artists doing music, but not just the pretentious GD. Probably you don’t know it on your blind way, but many or mostly doing much better than the “Messiah”. The prove is that they don’t need to show up for everything they say, besides the music they produce.

          • You are the one whose comments here are all about the hype, not me. This post is only about the statement made from the stage and that is what i am addressing here. Nowhere did i say that this conductor is the greatest or anything of that kind. So, your insinuations are baseless and pointless.

  • I like Leonard Bernstein’s words a lot better:

    “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

    • News item: LB was more eloquent in his native language than GD is in one that for him isn’t. Got any more earth-shattering revelations like this one for us?

  • It was a lovely gesture from Gustavo, and a perfectly appropriate thing to say. How anyone could possibly believe otherwise is bewildering to me, no matter how one feels about him as a man and artist. I happen to know him well (I work closely with him) and believe him to be a person of warmth, integrity (both artistic and human) and empathy.

    The hellfire would also rain down upon him – likely on this forum – if he hadn’t said a word, as well. In short, he can’t win with you folks who can find nothing but fault.

    • If you’re bewildered, then you could start by reading Sam McElroy’s detailed explanation above, and then explore why a significant number of Venezuelans would agree with him. You probably can’t see this in LA, but he has a lot of critics in Venezuela (and particularly among those who have left). With the internet, it’s not so hard to find out about these kinds of things, if you’re interested. Although it’s only tangentially about Dudamel, this would be well worth 10 minutes of your time: https://van-us.atavist.com/all-that-matters. It might open your eyes to Dudamel’s idol and mentor, and the system he represents.

      As for hellfire raining down upon him if he hadn’t said a word, how many figures in the arts have been vilified in the last 48 hours for not mentioning Brussels?

    • “The hellfire would also rain down upon him – likely on this forum – if he hadn’t said a word, as well. In short, he can’t win with you folks who can find nothing but fault.”

      Can you see anyone chasing any other artists that said something (or don’t)? The point is that even Lebrecht included GD dedication if it was top-notch important among all other dedications that happens or not after the attack. It is like if GD would be a very important artist comparing to all other colleague. Why always GD is a headline even for small things? Does his artistic achievements are so incredible and above all others? I believe that his propaganda management is the only best of the world ever.

  • Why has this turned into a political debate –he made a stupid ignorant observation that music sends messages ….. of beauty , love and peace , a meaningless comment.
    That the comment seems to have been prompted by the Brussels tragedy is a given .
    One can assume his handlers warned him off saying anything that might put himself
    and the orchestra in jeopardy hence this meaningless feel good banality .
    He comes across as a not too bright but inherently clever little man, otherwise he
    would have paused about music sending messages –but we should understand his audience who are quite comfortable with inane fell good messages ,it costs them
    nothing and one has made note of a tragedy and now on to things that matter at
    the present moment .

    • You are right Milka, but why GD is always headlines even for small banalities? I don’t think hes is a victim, but the pivot of a marketing strategy started just after that Mahler competition on 2005. Backlash is just a reaction to it.

      • One entertains the thought that he used the kids to get to the right spot $$$$$ then
        jumped ship to where he is now , and as noted the rest is market strategy

    • For the record: I was there and did not hear anyone saying that “music sends messages”. What I remember hearing is that the performers were dedicating the concert to people of Belgium and hoping that the universal language of music could help them send “a message of beauty, love and peace”. By the way, the reason NL mentioned it here may be simply because he just happened to be in the building that evening. If I am incorrect, NL will no doubt clarify this. If he wants to, that is.

  • Dudamel knows well enough what it’s like to live in a violent and repressive culture!! And he probably understands it’s coming to a city near you if you’re European!

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